Author: Ron Graham
—the new birth
Regeneration is renewal, rebirth, being “born again”. It is bringing back to life of a person who is spiritually dead —dead in sin. That life is eternal. It is a complete new start—a second genesis for the person.
We may think of regeneration as a precursor of the resurrection at the last day, when begins a new life without end in heaven. We may consider it so, because the Holy Spirit, given at our rebirth, is a guarantee or down payment of that eternal life.
Three Blessings of Regeneration
There are at least three blessings tied up with the new birth. These blessings cannot be had without being re‑born.
A person who is not “born again”...
(1) Will not enter God’s kingdom,
(2) Will not benefit from Christ’s death,
(3) Will not receive the Holy Spirit.
1 Entry Into the Kingdom of God
Jesus said, "Unless a person is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God... unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:1-8). Jesus makes it clear that only those who are born again have the blessing of entering God’s kingdom.
Paul says, "God has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of his dear Son. In him we have redemption through his blood..." (Colossians 1:13-14).
Notice how Paul uses the words "in him". Paul regards those in the kingdom as being in Christ. All who are in the kingdom are in Christ and all who are in Christ are in the kingdom.
Paul says in another place, "If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation" (2Corinthians 5:17).You cannot be in Christ and in his kingdom unless you are a new creation, unless you are born again. There's no other way to enter the kingdom but to be made a new creation in Christ Jesus.
2 The Benefit of Christ’s Death
In Romans chapter 6, Paul speaks of being "baptised into Christ Jesus... baptised into his death" (Romans 6:3). Paul goes on to say, "Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we also should walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4).
A little further down, Paul says, "Our old self was crucified with him... now if we died with him, we believe we shall also live with him... reckon yourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:6,8,11).
Paul in Romans 6 did not use the word regeneration or rebirth, but he is certainly talking about it. And Paul makes it plain that when you start a new life in Christ, you have come "into his death". The benefits of Christ’s death belong to the rebirth. The two go together and cannot be separate. You cannot be in Christ’s death if you are not born again.
Since the benefits of Christ’s death are only for the born again, nobody else can be saved, justified, sanctified, redeemed, forgiven —to name several of the benefits of Christ’s death.
There is a popular belief that many Christians have not been born again. If that were true, then these would be Christians without the benefits of Christ’s death! They would not be saved and would be no different to non‑Christians dead in sin.
3 The Gift of the Holy Spirit
Now let us consider the third blessing connected with regeneration. The seal of the Holy Spirit is "the guarantee of our inheritance" (Ephesians 1:13-15). Without the Holy Spirit our hope of eternal life would be in doubt. We would be vulnerable.
Now in order to have the indwelling "Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:2), a person must be born again into newness of life, "born of water and the Spirit" (John 3:5). The blessings of being born again, and of having the Holy Spirit, go together and cannot be separated.
For example Peter says, "You have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit... having been born again..." (1Peter 1:22-23). Nobody can have blessings through the Holy Spirit without having been born again.
For All Christians
I think there is general agreement that only those born again have the Holy Spirit. However there is disagreement about whether all Christians are born again and have the Holy Spirit.
Paul says, "Any person who does not have the Spirit of Christ is not his" (Romans 8:9). This means that all who are his, all who belong to Christ, all who are Christians, do have the Holy Spirit. And that means they all have been born again —because they can't have the Holy Spirit without being born again.
Again Paul says, "God saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). That not only ties regeneration and the Holy Spirit together, but ties salvation to them. In other words everyone who has salvation also has regeneration and the Holy Spirit.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter commanded obedience to the gospel, and promised all who obeyed that they would receive not only forgiveness of sins but also the gift of the Holy Spirit. He promised this to as many as God would call through the gospel (Acts 2:37-39). This means that Peter promised regeneration to all, because the gift of the Spirit and being born again are tied together.
Our next lesson will expand on this.
Synonyms: rebirth, new birth,“born again”, renewal, re-creation.
Scriptures: John 3:1-8, 1Peter 1:3-4,23-25, Romans 12:1-2, 2Corinthians 5:15-17, Romans 6:3-6, Ephesians 5:25-26, Revelation 1:5, Titus 3:5-6, Romans 8:1-2.
Related ideas:baptism, forgiveness, the gift of the Holy Spirit, resurrection, spiritual death, eternal life.
Synopsis: Regeneration is being “born again” (spiritually of course, not bodily). The “old person” (the condemned sinner) is no more, and a “new person” (the saint or holy one) is re-created in Christ.
Greek References: παλιγγενεσια (palingenesia) 3824 (Strong) cf 3825 palin again, 1078 (1074-1088) genesis birth, generation.